Despite having been around since 1994, having been available on a multitude of platforms, and having thirteen prior instalments, PS4 exclusive The King of Fighters XIV has been our introductory encounter with this franchise. Whilst we’ve discovered a sound technical fighter to add to our repertoire, we’ve also come to understand why it fell by the wayside for so long.
Don’t expect Netherrealm-style production values from the story mode. A sparse few cinematics convey a scant narrative.
Whilst the characters all have a firm technical foundation, their designs and diversity leave a little to be desired. We couldn’t identify most of them in a lineup, which might sound a petty grievance, but when the genre’s built upon the shoulders of iconic characters, it’s criminal. Thankfully they can’t all be tarred with the same brush, as select combatants - Choi Bounge and The King of Dinosaurs, for example - are bizarre enough to be memorable.
KOFXIV’s game modes are just as numerous with versus, survival, time attack, combo trials and story available on the singleplayer front. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, though don’t expect Netherrealm-style production values from the story mode. A sparse few cinematics convey a scant narrative that does little to distract from the fact it’s actually a tower battle mode.
Whilst disappointing, it’s far from damning for most, as online’s where extended longevity is eked out. There’s a lot to keep you busy between ranked play and free matches across team, single and party disciplines. It’s all for naught if poor netcode warps the otherwise responsive 60FPS control, but for the most part, performance is reliably steady. Whilst we have experienced infrequent pockets of latency, we couldn’t be picky about opponents pre-release, so expect better results when faced with a choice of matches in your region come launch day.
It’s easy to appreciate KOFXIV’s technical prowess, but it just doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Whilst connections vary, you’re always guaranteed a sumptuous visual and aural presentation. A bevy of creative stages show off a carnival of crisp, 1080p colour, each accompanied by a unique and fitting track. Clean menus also house a hard-rocking main theme, which never fails to build hype for the impending fight.
It’s easy to appreciate The King of Fighters XIV’s technical prowess and no bells and whistles approach; they give it a nostalgic feel that harkens back to many a classic. Despite that, it just doesn’t stand out from the crowd, or excel enough in any one area to take mantle as the game of choice in that distinction. For a certain breed of hardcore gamer, the stark focus on fundamentals will be a huge positive, whereas for another - us included - it’ll lack inherent fun through neglecting established pillars of the genre, like bonkers mini-games and recognisable guest characters. Which camp you fall into dictates whether KOFXIV is worth your time.